When you just know it!
Honestly, I had no clue if it would be in the mountains or along side of a lake. Might have happened at the shore or somewhere the land meets the sky in that incredible largess of expanse. Brutal winters or balmy clime: It matters not for when I chanced upon it I would know.
I'd followed a sign nailed to an old, old oak tree. The special, ancient sort with gathering branches that leaned over an old ivy-covered stone fence. I'd stopped for a break and seen a weathered sign that had obviously been there for ages. One nail had worked loose from gnarled bark and the sign hung canted, pointing down towards rooted knee rather than further down this little used, dusty back road. Surely it was long forgotten and the property it said was five miles further on and up was long since snatched up, but I couldn't resist the lure of the sign.
The little road curved up into a deeper forest, curled around and followed a singing brook that sparkled in the dappled sunlight. Another equally worn sign aimed me across a small wooden bridge and then along little more than a two-track that meandered up a hill. The road merely ended at a clearing. In front of me the branches parted revealing a green expanse of verdant view spreading out until tomorrow. Grandfather oaks edged where the ground swept downwards. The stream wandered as it S-ed its way to the edge and then fell to crystal fingered streams as it cascaded down into the valley below.
I could see it! My little cabin tucked under the branches of the oak, a porch placed just so to take in both the view and the little stream. A small barn to house the generator. Enough rocks and stone scattered about for a fireplace and. . .my mind reveled in the possibilities. I was lost in the sheer wonderment of plans and priorities, of window placement and then window boxes spilling ivy and petunias. I could see wide planked floors and my great-grandmother's quilt spread on a bed with a twisted oak headboard. I never even heard a vehicle drive up the path until a cough behind me caused me to start and turn.
Smiling at me through a long gray beard and with snappy blue eyes was a small gnome of a man. "Been waiting a long time for you to drop by," he said in a slight aggrieved sounding voice. "I knew you'd wend your way here eventually, but I expected you some time back."
"Expected someone, you mean," I said. "Surely you don't mean me, specifically."
"Oh didn't I just? This bit of land is for a very specific sort of person, and you're it. You didn't hear me drive up you were so busy planning and orchestrating how it will look. You will be a writer or some such--I can hear the muse buzzing about. You want this, goes without saying."
A bit taken aback, a bit bewildered, I stared at the man who was now beaming at me having made his mind up every bit as much as mine already was.
"Wouldn't, couldn't sell to just anyone you know. This land's been in my family for generations. Had to be just the right soul."
"Just the right..." My voice wavered off into silence, but I was grinning and shivers ran marathons down my back.
"Now let's get matters settled, shall we?" He named a price for the hundred (wow!) acres below what I should have expected to pay, far below what I'd have been willing to pay for the property. Details spun quickly, a handshake, a signed check and the offer of his family members to make real the dream envisioned in my mind. This, that just right piece of land was mine.
He pulled a pipe from somewhere beneath his long beard and settling down in the lap of the oak, lit it, inhaling with a deep sigh. "It isn't just a piece of property, you know. It is your homestead, for you are now home."
I agreed with him and we sat in companionable silence looking out over the valley, my valley. It felt as if my body were vibrating. I was that anxious to get started. Part of me wanted to simply blink my eyes and have it all done. That didn't happen of course.
That was a little over four months ago. His sons, grandson and even a great-grandson cleared out just the right trees for my cabin. Tall, straight trees that were split into massive logs and beams. Together we cleared and leveled where home should be. As if on cue, more of his extended family arrived to raise walls and get the roof finished mere moments before a summer storm unleashed its fury as we all stood inside laughing and cheering. I'd gotten to know his elfin wife, the tumbling twin great great granddaughters, the stories and the lore of this clan. I'd eaten with them and slept under their roof. I was welcomed as one of their own and they all lived scattered over this mountain. One day as he and I watched two of the grandsons manhandle the huge hearth stone they'd dragged a couple of miles down the mountain into place, I asked him the question that had been niggling the back of my mind for some time now.
"Why did you decide to sell this specific piece of land?"
He smiled, but didn't get around to answering me until yesterday. That was when the cabin was finally finished, when the generator fired, when his whole tribe showed up for a housewarming feast. Everything was in place. The table one grandson hewed from leftover oak sat proudly in the corner of my new kitchen just the right distance away from the new shiny black wood-stove. Curtains had appeared sewn by several of the wives. My envisioned bed sat in its windowed loft and a braided rag rug from one of the aunts graced the floor in front of my hearth. His whole clan arrived bearing food and still more gifts. We ate as if we were all starved. Venison haunches and tender back straps, corn and new, tiny peas. Music from fiddles careened down the mountain, followed, I'm sure, by echoed laughter and song and the sounds of feet tapping out the mountain tunes. The moon had risen over the valley, bathing it in silvered magic. Most of the children had fallen asleep, dropping in their tracks to nestle in comfortable and willing arms. A lone fiddle teased out a quiet, haunting tune, one of those for which no words are needed.
"To answer your question," he said, tapping my shoulder and gesturing with his ever present pipe, "We had no need to sell this land, you know." His voice was as lulling as the notes dropping like honey off the fiddler's bow. "My grandmammy once told me that someone would come, needing this, wanting this land, this heart. They would build their hearth in this spot and they would be a teller of tales, a spinner of yarns. They would write of the mountain's heartbeat, they would fit into the niche that none of us could ever, would ever fill and it would be right. You are, you have and you belong on this piece of land."
He raised his hand as I opened my mouth. "Say nothing," he said quietly. "We will leave you now. Go to sleep and rest well." And they did, gathering sleepy children and walking away into the night, the soft sounds of the fiddle guiding them home. I woke this morning to a mountain breeze teasing at me through the open window. Birdsong had replaced fiddle music. I drank my coffee in my rocker on my porch looking past the elder oak framing my view of my world. Then, I noticed the weathered piece of wood nailed to the post by my porch steps. It was the exact same piece of wood I'd first seen nailed to oak five miles down the road. Only now it said simply, 'Hearthome.'